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Missoula Personal Injury Blog

ZF reveals potential advantages of external airbags

The ZF Group has revealed that external airbags could reduce the severity of accident injuries by as much as 40 percent. The car parts manufacturer also has a strategy for how the technology could be developed moving forward. While Montana drivers won't want to hold their breath for them, external airbags may eventually become standard in most vehicles.

ZF's external airbags go on the sides of a vehicle to provide an added crumple zone should a side collision occur. One challenge is to ensure that the airbags deploy a split second before the actual crash; after all, external airbags provide a more drastic solution than other systems, which tighten the seatbelt or adjust the suspension when they sense a collision.

Car crashes decreased in vehicles with emergency braking system

A new study shows that drivers in Montana and across the nation benefit more than initially suspected from automatic emergency braking systems. Researchers from the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety conducted the study, and they looked at 10 different models of General Motors vehicles from 2013 to 2015 that were equipped with an automatic braking system. The study included both small and large cars, mid-sized vehicles and full-sized SUVs.

Automatic braking systems typically prevent motor vehicle accidents in two ways. A braking alert system warns a driver about a possible crash. The emergency brake system alerts the driver about a possible crash and applies the brakes to their fullest capacity. The study indicates that vehicles equipped with both alert and automatic braking systems work best to prevent accidents. Vehicles with the systems were involved in 43 percent fewer rear-end accidents, 64 percent fewer crashes with injuries of all types and 68 percent fewer collisions that involved third-party injuries when compared to vehicles without the automatic emergency braking systems.

How safe is your Montana railroad job?

Many Montana workers have come from long lines of ancestry where parents, grand-parents and perhaps even great grand-parents have given service to the transcontinental railroads that helped industrialize the United States. You may consider your railroad job both rewarding and challenging. Whether you are an engineer, conductor or work on a line maintenance crew, you may relate to many railroad employees who say they have loved trains since childhood and are happy earning their livings on the tracks.  

It's no secret, however, that railroad work typically ranks high on most lists concerning dangerous jobs in America. The commercial fishing industry, construction work and electrical work also carry high personal risk for injury. Your employer has a serious obligation to help keep you safe. If your employer fails to fulfill this duty, you may suffer injuries that cause partial or full disability.  

Accident risks increase with each hour of lost sleep

Most Montana residents are aware that driving when sleep-deprived can be just as dangerous as doing so when impaired by alcohol, but studies suggest that knowledge alone is not enough to prevent them from engaging in this dangerous behavior. Fatigue is thought to be a factor in about 16 percent of all fatal crashes, which is concerning for road safety advocates because Department of Transportation figures suggest that one in three American motorists get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night.

The results of a study published on Oct. 1 in the scientific journal Sleep reveal that motor vehicle accident risks increase exponentially with each hour of lost sleep. Interviews with drivers involved in 5,470 crashes investigated by the DOT suggest that drivers who sleep for six hours instead of between seven and nine are 1.3 times more likely to crash. Accidents are 2.9 times more likely with four hours of sleep according to the researchers, and motorists who get behind the wheel after sleeping for less than four hours are as impaired as a driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .12 percent.

Distracted driving poses many threats

Montana drivers could put themselves in harm's way by driving while distracted. According to a AAA study, 88 percent of respondents said that distracted driving was on the rise. However, for those looking to keep their employees safe while on the road, it will take more than statistics to change their behavior. This is because most people feel as if they won't be impacted by the dangers that distracted driving can cause.

Drivers can be distracted even when their eyes are on the road. This is referred to as cognitive distraction, and it can occur without a person realizing it. Cognitive distractions may result in a driver missing important information that could prevent an accident or other negative situation from taking place. When a person uses a smartphone, it can be a manual, visual and cognitive distraction. In other words, a person has taken his or her eyes and attention away from the road.

Limousine in deadly accident had a history of safety issues

Montana residents will have likely heard about a limousine accident in New York that claimed 20 lives on the afternoon of Oct. 6. Questions were raised in the aftermath of the crash about the safety of stretch limousines, and accident investigators have learned that the Ford Excursion SUV involved was cited for a raft of brake violations in March. According to official records, the New York State Department of Transportation found no evidence that issues such as constricted brake connections had been repaired when the SUV was inspected again in September.

An attorney representing the limousine company involved conceded that the vehicle had failed a safety inspection, but he claimed that the failure was due to a number of minor faults such as a faulty windshield wiper and missing window latch. The attorney also claims that all of these problems had been addressed prior to the deadly accident. Officials dispute these statements and say that the limousine had been ordered out of service for serious safety violations.

Accurate dementia diagnosis vital for appropriate treatment

The symptoms that determine which type of dementia a person has can resemble each other and make misdiagnosis possible. Families in Montana with a loved one presenting symptoms of possible dementia could learn about the different types and strive to communicate symptoms to physicians as clearly as possible. An accurate diagnosis could lead to treatment that prolongs a person's quality of life.

Lewy body dementia represents one form of the disease that benefits from an early diagnosis. During the initial stages of the disease, patients might gain greater benefits from dementia medications than patients with Alzheimer's disease. People who actually have Lewy body dementia but get misdiagnosed with something else run the risk of taking medications meant for Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease that could produce dangerous side effects.

Avoiding the dangers of hydroplaning

When heavy rains fall in Montana, drivers run the risk of hydroplaning. This occurs when the tires of a car encounter more water beneath them than they can handle, creating a thin layer of water between the tires and the street. The tires will therefore be floating above the road. The loss of traction can cause the car to slide or skid uncontrollably, crashing if the driver reacts in the wrong way.

The first 10 minutes of rainfall can actually be the most dangerous period for hydroplaning. That's because the initial rain will mix with oil residues on the road without having the chance to wash them all away. Still, drivers should be cautious around all wet roads at all times. Driving slowly and avoiding large puddles usually helps drivers avoid hydroplaning.

Rural roundabouts may reduce traffic accident risks

It's not unusual for some rural intersections in Montana to be governed solely by a stop sign. While this can be an effective way to manage traffic flow in some areas, it may not be the best option in locations where there's a higher risk of vehicle collisions. In one such area following a fatal accident in North Carolina, vegetation was cleared to make the stop sign more visible, and signs were posted announcing that a stop sign was ahead. However, there were two more serious accidents at the same interaction. The next step taken was to install a rural roundabout, which proved to be a more effective solution.

A roundabout is a setup where traffic is directed around an island in one direction in an almost continuous flow. This type of arrangement doesn't necessarily decrease the number of motor vehicle accidents. However, there is a reduced risk of serious injuries and fatalities. With traffic lights, accident frequency may be reduced, but collisions that do occur are more likely to be serious. What a roundabout does is eliminate the need for drivers to guess if they have enough time to get through an intersection. A driver simply glances to their left to see if anyone else is in the roundabout.

Injured in a car accident? Insurance may not be on your side

Automobile accidents happen every day on Montana roadways. If you were injured in a car accident and are suffering physically, financially and emotionally as a result, you may wonder if compensation is available to you. The truth is, it might be.

Following a car crash, the responsible party's insurance provider -- if he or she has one -- should contact you with a settlement agreement. They do this fairly quickly, usually to get you to accept the meager amount they are willing to offer you during your time of need. It may seem like a lot in the moment, but really it may not be enough for your needs in the long run.


Towe & Fitzpatrick, PLLC
619 SW Higgins, Ste. O
P.O. Box 1745
Missoula, MT 59806

Phone: 406-203-5148
Phone: 406-829-1669
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